Last weekend, I brewed my version of Oliver’s 3 Lions Ale for the CRABS clone wars competition. Steve Jones, head brewer at the Pratt Street Ale House, provided us with his recipe for a 7 barrel batch (available here) and it was left to us to scale it down for our systems. I talked to Steve about his brewing process, which is definitely as important as the recipe itself, and decided that I wanted to do two things I’d never done before that go hand-in-hand at traditional English breweries: use Ringwood yeast, and conduct an open fermentation. Ringwood is a yeast that some people seem to loathe due to its propensity to throw diacetyl when handled improperly, but anyone who has had a beer at Pratt Street knows that it can ferment clean, delicious ales.
The Pratt Street brewhouse, for those of you who haven’t seen it before, is “rustic” at best. It’s shoehorned into the basement of a century old building with little room for walking or even standing up straight. Their beers are brewed on a Peter Austin system — named for the founder of the Ringwood Brewery and popularized in America by Alan Pugsley of Shipyard — the likes of which have been installed across the country and are known for using open fermenters with Ringwood yeast. I had previously experimented with fermenting in a wide, square container (the HDPE Vittles Vault pet food container) to evaluate the effects of shallow fermenter geometry on ester production in some of my Belgian beers. I hadn’t done a truly open fermentation, though, and I figured that this would be the right fermenter to use. Just to be safe, I got an elastic strainer bag to put over the top to keep dust out. As you’ll see in the pictures below, this probably wasn’t necessary due to the large rocky head that formed.
Below is what I came up with in Promash by scaling down the original recipe.
Steve was in England last week, so my plan to get some of the house yeast from him didn’t work out. I instead used White Labs 005, which is the Ringwood strain that Oliver’s house yeast originated from many years ago. It’s always important to pitch the proper amount of healthy yeast, and it seemed even more critical in this case. Under-pitching leads to stressed yeast cells and incomplete fermentation, both of which can contribute diacetyl. A fast start also seemed important to build a protective krausen layer on top of the open fermenter.
I used Jamil’s Mr. Malty yeast calculator, as always, to determine how large a starter I needed. For 10 gallons of 1.075 ale wort, this came out to be about 3L with 2 vials of yeast added. The starter went on the stirplate a few days before I planned on brewing. The day before brewing, I crash cooled it in the fridge so I could decant the stale wort off of the yeast.
For the grain bill, I used all Maris Otter for the base malt instead of a combination of Halcyon and American 2-row . The recipe also called for adding 5-star pH 5.2 stabilizer, which I don’t use. I was concerned that the salt additions for burtonizing the water in combination with the acidic dark malts might bring the mash pH down too much. After checking the mash pH, I added a bit of chalk to bring the pH up to 5.3, within the ideal range of 5.3 – 5.6 (measured at room temperature — this is often quoted as 5.1 – 5.4 due to the pH shift at mash temp).
The hops used for the recipe were all classic English hops — Challenger at 90 minute, First Gold at 60, and EKG and Bramling Cross at flameout. I waited 45 minutes before chilling as Steve does in his recipe for an aroma hop stand.
When it was time to chill, I started pumping from the kettle through my Therminator plate chiller and adjusted the flow until it was coming out at 65F. Steve’s recipe called for pitching at about 70-72 degrees, but I didn’t have the guts to do it, as pitching cool and fermentation temperature control have been the biggest keys to improving the quality of my beer. Instead, I decided to pitch about 5 degrees below my fermentation temperature as I always do. Most off-flavors and unwanted esters are generated in the first 48 hours of fermentation, so this still leaves plenty of time to let it warm up and ferment vigorously to completion.
One hernia-inducing flight of stairs later, the vittles vault and 10 gallons of wort were upstairs in a 68 degree room. I aerated the wort with my aquarium pump, pitched the yeast, and covered the opening with the mesh strainer bag.
12 hours later, the temperature strip on the side of the fermenter read 72, and the beer had the wildest looking krausen that I’d ever seen.
After 24 hours, it had almost reached the top. This was definitely a vigorous fermentation. I took this opportunity to skim the bitter brown hop sludge from the top and then stir to introduce oxygen as Steve does. I did this each night for the first 3 days.
On day 3, fermentation was still active according to the sound of CO2 bubbles escaping from the surface. The fermentation temperature reached a max of 75 or so before slowly cooling down.
Steve says that he crash cools after 4 days, but on a homebrew scale I’ve never been able to replicate the aggressive schedules that commercial brewers use. Whether it’s because of the size of the batch, the fact that the yeast from a previous batch ferments faster than a new generation, or some other unknown factor, I give every beer at least a week in the primary, often more. I checked the gravity on day 4 and it was down to 1.020, so I decided that the time for oxygenation and CO2 release was over and put the lid on. By day 7, it was down to 1.016, and I kegged and crash cooled since I still had a deadline of March 11 for the competition
Half of this batch is currently carbonating in the keg, and by Friday I’ll have some bottles filled and ready to bring over to Pratt Street. According to Steve, a 12 day turnaround is no problem for this beer; so far, he was definitely right about the virgorous fermentation and good attenuation. Initial taste tests are promising, but I’ll have to wait for the carbonated version to see if I really think that this turned out to be a good clone of 3 Lions.
The other half? I’m trying something different. It’s sitting in secondary with 2 ounces of EKG pellets added. I hope to end up with a nice floral, malty English IPA. We’ll see how it turns out.